The Belle's Stratagem


Writers: Hannah Cowley


Show Information

Number of Acts
First Produced
Comedy, Parody
Period, Multiple Settings
Time & Place
London, 1780
Cast Size
Ideal for
College/University, Professional Theatre, Regional Theatre, Large Cast
Casting Notes
Mostly male cast
Includes young adult, adult, mature adult characters


London, 1780. And it’s marriage season, but not quite as you know it. Feminism meets an eighteenth-century comedy of manners in Hannah Cowley’s best known play. In two parallel plot-lines, a group of wily women are determined to challenge the status quo and demand the respect they deserve from the men in their lives. First up is Letitia Hardy, an independent young woman who comes up with the ingenious plan of ensnaring the affections of her arranged husband, Doricourt, who is convinced that all English women are dull as dishwater. She is determined to prove him wrong and earn his respect...and desire.

Meanwhile, the young and beautiful Lady Frances Touchwood is forced to live under the strict protection of her insanely jealous husband, Sir George. He tries to keep her sheltered away from the dangers of society, but he hasn’t reckoned upon Miss Ogle and Mrs. Rackett, two fiercely independent women who plan to release Lady Frances into society and let her shine.

The two storylines come to a climax at the masquerade ball, in a colorful and entertaining victory for the women of the play. Hannah Cowley’s witty comedy of manners turns the tables on conventional gender stereotypes, creating a daring parody of fashionable society, marital expectations, and the role of women in the late-eighteenth century.

Lead Characters

The Belle's Stratagem guide sections